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Some fat presentation tips if you use Linux or Open Office

September 18, 2009

Recommendation 1: xrandr

At OSCON I had problems with getting my Ubuntu MacBook to talk to the overhead projects. Yes, MacBooks are notorious for this. At the excellent DZUG-Tagungs I had the same troubles, but time to look for a fix. (At PyCon everything worked fine though, so it’s only certain projectors).

Basically, the monitor configuration tool will present me with three screens if I connect the VGA dongle. One being the LCD screen, another the VGA and a third screen seems to be the DVI screen, even though I connect the VGA dongle. Crazy stuff. The problem is that whatever you do with the VGA screen, nothing actually happens. Resolution makes no difference, mirroring makes no difference. Pressing Apply will make the screen blink and you get asked if you want to save the settings, but the external monitor never turns on.

Aftersome serious Googling I found xrandr. This saved my life. Well, OK it didn’t, but it saved the presentation. xrandr does the same thing as the screen tool, but on the command like, and unlike it, it works. Possibly it’s way more stupid, and maybe doens’t ask the monitor if it can handle the resolution or something, it just sets it. Just typing xrandr will tell you what screens you have and the modes that they support.

I’ll give you a couple of handy typical settings. For other stuff, read the manual:

Single-screen presentation setting; Mirror the LCD and the VGA in 1024×768:

xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1024x768 --output VGA --mode 1024x768

Dual screen presentation; Separate screen for the LCD and the VGA, VGA to the right of the LCD:

xrandr --output LVDS --mode 1280x800 --output VGA --mode 1024x768 \
       --right-of LVDS

As you see it’s pretty straight forward to use.

Recommendation 2: Presenter view plugin for Impress

Open Office Impress is not the worlds best presentation software. In many ways it’s pain in the ass, and I did a lightning talk at Pycon using the normal image viewer in fullscreen mode and just pictures I Googled. That was actually quite nice and much easier to do.

But that’s not always enough, and then you do need a presentation software, and for Linux the choices are limited. Now that I have discovered xrandr and know how to get separate screens in a reliable way when I’m at conferenses, I would like to have a separate presenter view, where you see not only the current slide, but the next slidem the notes and the time.

And whaddayounkow, there is one for Impress. Now, stupdly it’s not included, you need to download it as a separate plugin. Silly really. But it seems to work fine, and I’m totally using it for my next presentations. No more forgetting what the next slide is, no more looking at the clock worringly, no more forgetting to say stuff. It’s going to make me a better presenter!

So why did I tell you guys this? I should have kept the secret to myself, right? No, I shouldn’t, and with some luck I’ll tell you why not at the Plone conference!

From → plone, python

3 Comments
  1. This is ridiculous synchronicity:

    http://jorgenmodin.net/index_html/archive/2009/09/18/clone-your-screen-with-a-projector-when-they-have-different–resolutions-linux

    Although we talk abot slightly different things we seem to have found xrandr🙂

  2. brandoncraigrhodes permalink

    You can also clone the screens, which always makes things much easier for me (since what I see on my screen is what they’re seeing on the projector behind me) with something like:

    xrandr –output VGA –mode 800×600 –same-as LVDS

    Another bonus is that if the projector resolution I choose is lower than my laptop’s resolution (as in the example above, since my laptop runs as 1280×800), then the bottom edge and right edge of my screen become places where I can put notes or other information that won’t show up on the projector.

    For presenting, I export my Impress document to PDF and use Impressive:

    http://impressive.sourceforge.net/

    Its slide transitions are ultra-smooth, and you can hit “tab” and it will zoom out to a view of all your slides, which is great when answering questions and needing to zoom back to an earlier slide. And you can also turn on a “spotlight” that highlights the area around your mouse for emphasis.

    And, it’s written in Python.🙂

  3. Balazs Ree permalink

    I could not agree more with the usage of xrandr.

    About the oo presenter, I am about to try it and I realized this:

    openoffice.org-presenter-console – OpenOffice.org Impress extension for a separate presenter’s console

    this is on Debian sid. So, there is chance you can find it packaged in Ubuntu as well.

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